Review by Frank Plowright
KidZ is an updating of Peter Pan’s presentation of boys without parents bonding together for fun and mutual protection. Except in this case it’s not pirates and a crocodile providing the threat, but zombies.
Jocelyn Joret’s spectacular scene-setting opening page, provided as the sample art, ought to be all anyone needs to see to investigate further. A gang of boys in their early teens patrol a neighbourhood chasing down zombies. Unlike other zombie stories, manifestations are relatively scarce, as under Aurélien Ducoudray and Joret they finally die properly after three months without food. Food is also an issue for the KidZ, whose name is applied to video footage one of them shoots when they come across a zombie.
Having begun with a standard action sequence, albeit with comedy overtones, KidZ then veers away from the obvious. When was the last time you read a zombie story extensively quoting Rudyard Kipling, for instance? Ducoudray’s interest in zombies is passing, and he prioritises the social bonding and emotional consequences of boys growing up without parents in a world seemingly without adults. The cast is completed for a character study when Wendy arrives in the form of Polly, accompanied by her sister in a wheelchair requiring a new battery and disrupting the all-male environment. As they learn to knock along together, Ducoudray reveals how they’ve been affected by the horror in their recent past.
At its best KidZ can be heartbreaking as Ducoudray defines the personalities of the assorted cast members professionally, so that when a session of Truth or Dare takes place it positively crackles with tension. It’s cleverly written so adults will pick up on the subtexts that elude the characters, like Polly attempting to keep things positive for her sister, and it explains the aggression harboured by Brooks.
This combines the opening two volumes (a third was published in French in 2023), and unusually the second is almost a direct continuation beginning with a scavenging trip and continuing with greater tension between Polly and Brooks. Over the first half, though it seems as if everything that needs to be said about the circumstances has been said, and the continuation is going to disappoint. It doesn’t. There’s a point where a line is crossed and it’s a real bombshell, almost immediately topped by Ducoudray with further revelations providing a kick to the gut.
Joret maintains his high standards throughout, every page a treat, and that extends to the bonus material after the main story, cleverly devised to supply answers to the mysteries not revealed before.
What’s otherwise an engaging coming of age story in terrifying times aimed at young adults earns an adult rating for English language readers based on the swearing rather than the horror. More liberal parents will realise that the words are nothing their children don’t hear plenty of times during a school day.